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A Golden Retriever puppy curled up on your bed--what could be cuter? A 100-pound Retriever that spent the day swimming in a swamp, sprawled out in the middle of your bed on your new duvet...not so much!
Training your Golden Retriever to sleep in a crate at night might be a better option, 'just saying! Having your Golden sleep in a crate at night has several advantages. Besides keeping your bed dog-free, it speeds up house training considerably, gets him accustomed to a crate that can later be used for addressing behavioral issues or traveling, and keeps your pup safe while you are sleeping--an unsupervised dog can chew on dangerous items like electrical cords or sharp objects, or get into food that will make him sick. Your Golden Retriever may not be too happy about the chosen sleeping location at first--your bed, after all, was pretty comfy--but there are several ways to make your Retriever's crate a favorite, safe place, for your dog. Dogs are, after all, “den” animals, and making your dog's crate his den gives him a safe place of his own to sleep quietly at night.
In order to train your Golden Retriever to happily and quietly sleep in a crate at night, you need to make the crate a great place. This means never using it as a form of punishment. Although confining your dog to a crate may be required to keep him out of trouble, it should never be accompanied by punishment or yelling, which will create a negative association with the crate.
The younger you start your Golden Retriever learning to use his crate at night, and to be comfortable with it, the easier it will be to establish it as a quiet retreat your dog is happy to use. You may want to include a verbal command to give your dog direction to get into his crate, such as “kennel up”, “bedtime”, “den” or “crate”. It is not uncommon, especially for young dogs, to cry or whine at night when left in their crates at first. After all, they would rather be snuggled up with you. It is important not to respond to crying, which will only reinforce it. Keep in mind that a puppy or young dog may need to go out for potty breaks in the middle of the night. To avoid having to respond to a crying dog that needs a bathroom break, schedule breaks before your dog starts to vocalize, that way he will not need to alert you, and won't have crying reinforced by being let out of his crate for a midnight romp in the yard.
To make a crate comfy, you will want to line it with a blanket or towel. If you are using a wire crate instead of a hard-sided crate, you can put a blanket over the top to make it cozy and prevent drafts. Be sure that whatever crate you use, your Golden Retriever still has good airflow; one side should remain uncovered. Crates should be big enough for your Golden Retriever to stand up, turn around, and lie down in comfortably. If you buy a larger crate that will accommodate a young dog when they are full grown, you can partition off part of it when they are a puppy so it is not too spacious, which can give them an opportunity to pee in a corner away from where they sleep. To train your dog to be comfortable in his crate you may opt to remove the door at first, or tie it open so it does not close on your dog and startle him. Putting the crate in a warm location where your Golden can see you and the rest of the family and not feel isolated will meet with better success than putting the crate in an out-of-the-way location. If necessary, you can move the crate once your dog becomes used to it.
The Puppy Training Method
Add scent to a toy
When you pick up your Golden Retriever puppy, bring a stuffed toy and rub it all over his litter mates and mom. Place the stuffed toy in your dog's crate so that he has the familiar smell of his siblings and mom. You can also place a warm, heated item like a hot water bottle or a toy with a “heartbeat” available at pet supply stores. Make sure toys are dog safe, and cannot be chewed apart and swallowed.
Keep crate sessions short
Only place your Golden Retriever in his crate for a few hours at a time. Generally 1 hour for every 4 weeks of age is a guideline. A new 8-week old-puppy introduced to your home should not be confined for more than 2 hours to his crate.
Tire him out
Have a long play time or walk before crating at bedtime. Really wear your young Golden out so he is ready for rest and quiet time.
Let him out before bed
Feed your Golden Retriever at least an hour before bedtime, and withhold water for 30 minutes before bedtime. Let your puppy have a bathroom break immediately prior to crating at night, so he is able to hold it. A young dog may make it a few hours, while a mature dog will be able to make it until morning.
Provide bathroom breaks
Schedule bathroom breaks regularly during the night for young dogs so that you can give your dog an opportunity to relieve himself before he begins to cry or whine. This avoids reinforcing vocalizations. If your Golden Retriever starts to cry in the night and you suspect it is due to potty needs, take your dog immediately outside to do his business, and then immediately back to his crate to minimize disruption to his crate routine.
The Get Familiar Method
Prepare the crate
Put your Golden Retriever’s crate in a busy area of the house, so he can see what is going on. At night, put the crate in your bedroom so he can see and hear you. Either tie the door open or remove it completely so that your dog is not startled by a closed door and feels trapped. Put a blanket inside the crate. Exercise or play with your Golden so he is in a relaxed, quiet mood ready for rest.
Put a treat at the entrance to the crate and sit down with your dog. Provide treats at the door and toss treats inside for him to fetch.
Keep your dog company
Ask your pup to 'crate up' and sit down next to him. Provide him treats while he sits or lies down in his crate, sit with him and watch TV or read a book, petting and praising him in the crate. If your Golden Retriever gets out of crate, ignore him. If he returns to the crate, give treats and affection.
Provide activity before bed
Before bedtime, take your Golden out for a potty break and lots of exercise and play, so he is tired and ready to relax. At bedtime, ask your Golden to go in his crate and close the door. Sit with him and talk to him until he settles in for the night. If he vocalizes, ignore him, if he sits quietly, talk to him and reassure him.
During the night, ignore vocalizations unless you are sure your dog needs a potty break. Provide the potty break, but try to time it when your dog is not crying or whining. Ignore vocalizations--at first you may need to employ ear plugs or move to another room to get some sleep. Try to time training for a weekend or a day when you do not have work the next day so that you have more flexibility with your sleep schedule.
The Associate with Food Method
Provide treats in the crate
Toss treats in your Golden's crate for him to retrieve.
Provide meals in the crate
Put your Golden Retriever's food dish next to the crate and feed him there for a few days. Say “Kennel up”. Move his dish into the crate and let him eat in the crate while you stand with him and talk to him.
Close the crate door
When your dog is comfortable eating in the crate, close the door while he is eating but remain with him, just outside the crate. Talk to him reassuringly. Repeat for a few days.
Provide crate time
After eating, leave your dog in the crate for a few minutes after each meal with the door closed. Gradually increase the time so he gets used to staying in the crate longer and longer.
Provide command and chew toys
Ask your Golden retriever to “Kennel up” , close the door, and provide him with a rawhide bone, pig ears or a Kong filled with peanut butter or canned dog food in his crate. Gradually increase the length of time he spends in his crate.
Start night time use
Once your Golden is accustomed to his crate, start using it at night. Give him exercise and a bathroom break first then ask him to “kennel up” and close him in his crate. Keep him company and give him praise at first for a few minutes. Ignore vocalizations in the night.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021